You at Risk for Breast Cancer?
You at Risk for Breast Cancer - Page 1)
factors can be environmental, biological, or based on activities that
you can change. Knowing your risk gives you the chance to change what
you can and reduce the possibility that you will have to face a breast
cancer diagnosis. Here are the risk factors that are known at this
time. Click on the links for a more in depth discussion of these issues.
sex are you?
The simple truth is that men
get breast cancer, but far less often than women. A report by
Eva R. Glazer, M.D., M.P.H. giving statistics in California from
1988 through 1992 states, "Among the 86,142 invasive breast
cancers diagnosed in men and women during that time, 0.6% were in
men. During the same period of time, 112 California men died from
breast cancer, less than 0.1% of all male cancer-related deaths."
Simply being a woman increases your breast cancer risk.
old are you?
Statistically, if you're under 40 your risk of developing breast
cancer is low - but remember this is based on the average. Other
factors may increase or decrease your risk. Breast self exams, a
healthy diet and exercise are a good idea at any age.
was your age when you first menstruated?
Women who had their first menstrual period before age 12 have
a slightly increased risk of breast cancer. The levels of the
female hormone estrogen change with the menstrual cycle. Women
who start menstruating at a very young age have a slight increase
in breast cancer risk that may be linked to this longer lifetime
exposure to estrogen.
you have children?
Each preganancy lasts about nine months. During that time your
hormones do not maintain the same levels as non-pregnant women.
It is thought that having a full term pregnancy causes the breast
tissue to "mature" and decreases the chance that a
tumor will occur. The more children you have, the lower your
risk of breast cancer.
what age did you have your first child?
For the same reasons, women who had their first full term pregnancy
after age 30 and women who have never borne a child have a greater
risk of developing breast cancer.
you have children, did you breastfeed?
The conclusion that can be drawn from researching the literature
is that taken with all of the various genetic and environmental
factors that influence a women's risk of developing breast cancer
- breast feeding certainly does not increase the risk -- and
long term breast feeding may, in fact, reduce the risk of developing
breast cancer. One warning for women who have been diagnosed
with breast cancer is that breast feeding seems to increase
the speed at which a tumor grows. Some advocates of breast feeding
recommend breast feeding anyway. The bulk of the professional
literature tends to discourage breast feeding for women who
have breast cancer or who have had breast cancer.
you have your ovaries surgically removed while in your mid-
The ovaries are the producers of estrogen - the hormone most
often linked to the growth of breast tumors. Having your ovaries
removed reduces your breast tissue's exposure to estrogen and
lowers your risk.
you had one or both breasts removed to prevent cancer?
A prophylactic mastectomy means removing a breast to prevent
this disease. Some people who have had breast cancer in one
breast or who are at high risk of breast cancer due to genetic
mutations in the BReast CAncer (BRCA) genes, have decided to
undergo this procedure. Studies report that the incidence of
breast cancer is much lower. Most women who have had the procedure
say that they are very happy with their decision.
you take oral contraceptives or estrogen-containing hormone
Use of these products has been linked to increased breast cancer
risk. The oral contraceptives in use now have a lower estrogen
content and are thought to be safer than the original formula.
Remember, not using contraception usually results in pregnancy
which has its own heath risks.
you drink alcohol?
If you're worried about your risk of breast cancer - do not
take a drink to calm yourself. Many studies have suggested that
alcohol may be a factor in breast cancer. There is disagreement
on the amount that will create an increased risk. If you do
drink, try to stick to red wines and dark beers.
is your race/ethnic background?
This is a complicated subject in breast cancer as in a lot of other
areas. There are all sorts of studies that show that where you live,
what nationality you are and what race you belong to has an effect
on your risk of getting breast cancer. African-American women tend
to get breast cancer less than Caucasians. However, the mortality
rate is higher for black women with breast cancer than it is for
white women. The same figures apply to men, but the studies are
far fewer since the disease is not as common in men.
many members of your immediate family have had breast cancer?
Having one or more first-degree blood relatives (parent, child,
brothers or sisters) who have been diagnosed with breast cancer
increases a your chances of developing this disease.
many members of your extended family -- that is, aunts, cousins
or grandmothers -- have had breast cancer?
Remember to count your fathers side of the family, too. Genes come
from both parents and genetic predisposition to breast cancer comes
along with the genes. If you have a large number of relatives with
breast cancer, you may have a genetic predisposition to the disease.
If you are really concerned, there are counselors who will perform
an analysis of your DNA and let you know if you do have any of the
genetics markers that indicate an increased risk. If you do, there
are many options to increase your odds of preventing or surviving
breast cancer. You should have any genetic testing done with a reputable
counselor available to discuss the results. Remember - breast cancer
is not a death sentence!
you had any breast biopsies?
A biopsy is the removal of a sample of tissue or cells for a pathologist
to examine under a microscope to check for cancer cells. Women who
have had breast biopsies have an increased risk of breast cancer,
especially if the biopsies showed a change in breast tissue known
as 'atypical hyperplasia'. These women are at increased risk because
of whatever breast changes prompted the biopsies. Biopsies do
not cause cancer. Changes in the breast tissue that are often
precancerous creates the need for a biospy.
is your BMI?
Check here for a BMI calculator.
BMI is Body Mass Index. It is a number assigned to the percentage
of your weight that is fat.
needs some fat, anorexia is the result of not having any. The
best range is 18 - 22. The closer your BMI is to this range, the
less risk you have for a multitude of diseases - including breast
BMI over 26 indicates a very large proportion of body fat and
the need to get rid of some of it to lower your health risks.
The theory is that fat tissue stores estrogen, the more fat the
more estrogen. The more estrogen the higher your risk of breast
the fat is located is also important. Not just for grown women
but for young girls, as well.
girls with a large amount of fat in their hips (pear shaped), may
begin to menstruate earlier. Girls with abdominal fat are more likely
to have higher levels of insulin and and growth hormone. This may
raise the levels of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1). IGF-1 has
been linked to the growth of breast tumors.
often do you exercise?
For most of us, exercise is a good thing. It helps burn excess calories
and keeps that BMI in a healthy range. For anyone concerned with
lowering their risk of breast cancer, it is mandatory. Most studies
of women who exercised reported reductions in the risk of developing
breast cancer, some as high as 60%.
many servings of fruits and vegetables do you eat per day?
Studies show that increasing your servings of fruit and vegetables
reduces your risk of cancer -- all cancer, but especially breast
cancer. Plant foods have high levels of antioxidants, such as vitamins
A, C, E, and the mineral selenium, all of which can prevent cell
damage that may lead to cancer.
you eat red meat?
This one is still being debated. The rule of thumb is that if there's
a chance that it may increase your chances of getting breast cancer
- it's good to err on the side of caution. Most experts recommend
reducing your consumption of red meat if you are currently eating
a normal Western diet. You don't have to eliminiate red meat from
your diet, just reduce the portions of meat. Fill up on the side
dishes - which, hopefully, will be lots of fruits and vegetables.
you ever been exposed to significant radiation?
The connection between radiation and cancer is dependent on the
radiation dose and the age at which you were exposed. Those age
19 and younger are at highest risk. The dosage of radiation received
during most modern therapies, including mammograms, is not high
enough to cause harm. However, the high doses that were given to
children with scoliosis and Hodgkin's disease up to 15 years ago
have been linked to breast cancer in adults. Although some believe
that any radiation is dangerous, like red meat it is not necessary
to completely eliminate all radiation. There is a fair amount of
radiation that occurs naturally in the environment. The amount of
radiation from a mammogram is less than you would be exposed to
at the beach or on a picnic.
mammograms have not been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.
you know what the risk factors are, use this simple screening tool
to find out what your risk is: Breast
You at Risk for Breast Cancer - Page 1)
updated April 21, 2017